“We keep patching and it keeps leaking…” This was a usual, common response of one of my respected in-laws. This man’s innumerable witty banters are ten a kobo, but his ‘patching and leaking’ imagery struck a chord when thoughts of what our country has become, kept fueling my worry. To me, Nigeria keeps leaking as we continuously try to patch it, and I wonder how long we would be doing this?
A section of our leaders appear comfortable with the country as it is while another section thinks there should be a reorganisation of our governance structure. Those who love Nigeria as it structurally is are mostly from the ruling elite, who find nothing wrong with the many things other Nigerians are complaining about. In most cases, they at best concede that even if there is any reason to make changes in the country’s situation, it should be midwifed by the National Assembly. Meanwhile, part of the painful dislocation the country is suffering from is the unfair composition and the disposition of the same National Assembly.
For many years, this has been the cause of anger, disagreement, agitation, uprising and even a civil war. And as a country, we have been turning in this mire, hoping like a serenading pet, that things would be alright. As pointers to a need for some twitching of this country, there had been conferences, constitutional and otherwise, and there had been reports and recommendations. If there had been no reason to answer some questions about Nigeria, there wouldn’t have been those conferences. Again, there would not have been perpetual agitation for fairness at nearly every turn in our development, derivation, restructuring, fiscal federalism, and, in the extreme, call for secession. And we keep patching, ignoring the cries and playing the ostrich.
The current events in the country show that our ineffective but stubbornly sustained patching of this leaking house has now become a sad, comical reverie. If you’re in doubt, check how our angry, protesting youths are reacting to what many of our leaders say. There’s no iota of trust in them, and they make a mockery of some of our leaders’ best efforts at addressing their very many questions. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and many Nigerians will not easily forget “Sòrò sókè…” meaning “speak up”, as a metaphor. His encounter with the protesting youths in the #EndSARS #EndSARSNow and now #EndSWAT, #EndPoliceBrutality #ReformPolice agitation across the country tells how they feel and what they want.
As usual, some Nigerians of northern extraction are the ones opposing the #EndSARS #EndSWATNow movement that has assumed a life of its own. The anti-protest agitators are saying that the Federal Government has acceded to the demand to dismantle the discredited Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit of the Nigeria Police Force and, therefore, the protests should end if there are no shrouds. Those calling for an end to the protests conveniently ignore overwhelming evidence of government’s insincerity in handling the issue of police brutality as well as in numerous other issues affecting the entire population. One of the readily available examples is the fact that SARS had earlier been either “banned” or “dismantled” several times in the past by the Inspector-General of Police to no avail. Those imputing improper political motives to the ongoing protests are simply asking for the continued patching of the bad Nigerian situation.
As things stand, the gulf between the government and the people, regardless of what picture Femi Adesina or any of the government spokespersons try to paint, is dangerously widening. And there seems to be no break in the fast descent into anarchy. The government seems oblivious of the fact that there is need for a serious reorganisation of the police force. One of the ways to rein in the current agitation is to take urgent steps to sincerely address the issues, and a good point to start is a sincere reform of the Nigeria Police Force. One Inspector-General that sits atop a behemoth called Nigeria Police Force, overseeing the affairs of all Nigeria and Nigerians is a misnomer today. This may have worked in the past but policing today’s Nigeria would need much more that one IGP ensconced in Abuja with the high and mighty, and too busy for a timely, effective response to issues in Kaltungo or in Amizi-Isuogu, or in Iropora, or in Gajiram.
We didn’t just start or just got here; the problem with Nigeria squarely rests on leadership, Chinua Achebe said in his 1984 treatise entitled: ‘The Trouble with Nigeria.’ He noted thus: “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water, air, or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of true leadership.”
Today, we are starring Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s warning in the face. He warned that “The children of the poor you failed to train will never let your children live in peace…” Haven’t we arrived at that juncture now?
Some women while praising the efforts of the protesters, said that the kind of protest that would ignite a true change in the country is that which would lead to the shutting down of the entire country. Some of the women who expressed this opinion were also impressionable young teenagers in the era of the late General Sani Abacha, when this kind of thing happened. Then, the National Union of Petroleum, Energy and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) brought the country to its knees when they shut down operations. The unions became popular then, and Frank Ovie Kokori became a household name.
The women, some of whose children are part of the protests of today, are concerned not just about police brutality and sundry institutional fails, but also cost of living. They are worried about the high cost of food and the general, debilitating inflation in the country. They think high cost of living and inflation too deserve a hashtag and that they could rise from their sitting position to dance to any music that might change the song they are stuck with at the moment.
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The Security Committee of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has banned all street demonstrations, protests and processions in the territory, including the EndSARS protest.